Washington, D.C., insiders frequently talk about grassroots activism. What is grassroots advocacy and why does it matter to you? The thing about grassroots—despite being a common phrase used in D.C. and during elections—is that it has nothing to with “the establishment” or professional lobbyists and everything to do with you.
Grassroots advocacy is when the general public directly contacts their local, state or federal elected officials regarding an issue. Generally, not-for-profits or professional trade groups, like the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), solicit this interaction because of a pending legislative or regulatory issue that could impact you or something you care about, such as your business.
Unlike direct lobbying, citizen-based activism connects elected officials to their constituents directly. This is a meaningful interaction because elected officials want to hear from the people who elect them to office. Keeping their constituents happy increases their job security, after all. Grassroots advocacy can be even more impactful if the constituent is a small-business owner—a job creator—in an elected official’s district.
Grassroots mobilization has proven to be an effective method of lobbying. Its popularity has grown in recent years as new technologies make it easier for associations to communicate with their members and for constituents to communicate with their legislators. It is not uncommon for small organizations to mobilize hundreds or even thousands of members when issues arise.
The IPCPR engages our members on select issues of importance to the premium tobacco industry. I believe IPCPR members have compelling stories to tell about small business, and your voices make a difference. In 2018, IPCPR members increased state grassroots email campaign participation by almost 400 percent from 2017. This is due in part to small-business owners like you engaging your customer base.
Grassroots participation can come in many forms: letter writing, emails, phone calls and social media. The next time you receive a phone call or an email from an IPCPR government relations staff member requesting grassroots outreach, I urge you to take action. You are being contacted because your elected official needs input from you on a priority issue for your business.
Acting as a grassroots advocate with a simple email or phone call is the easiest, most effective action you can take to influence your future business success. Elected officials may not know who you are or be educated about your business needs if you do not speak up. Grassroots activism is telling your own story instead of letting someone else do it for you. If you have concerns or would like to get more involved in advocating for our industry, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Contributed by Rachel Hall, the senior director of state affairs at the IPCPR.